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Hell bent on destryoing my credibility - 76%

BastardHead, September 3rd, 2008

The Sword is one of those bands that a lot of metalheads scoff at as being third rate wannabes with nary a shred of artistic integrity. One of those sad amalgamations of hipster kids that wanted to cash in on the popularity of metal. While, yes, the founding member was originally a founding member of an indie band, the premise of The Sword being formed purely for financial gain is laughable considering the last four words of the preceding sentence make as much sense as shit scented deodorant. Metal has a massive and loyal following, true, but if they really wanted to make money off the style, they would've taken a route like thrash revival or metalcore. Y'know, something that's proven to be an almost guaranteed snatch of at least half of one's fifteen minutes of fame. Who knows why the style switch happened? I guess only the members themselves will, but it's a pretty safe bet that they simply enjoy the music. I find it strange that people lambast a band for doing something purely because they think it's cool... why the fuck else are you supposed to do something? Sex is pretty cool is it not? Well, since you haven't been having sex since birth then dammit you don't deserve to have any now!. You eat sausage with your pancakes for years? Did you recently discover that bacon is actually the ultimate breakfast enhancer? Too bad asshole! Tough shit, you should've thought of that before you started with sausage you fucking heathen.

You see the absurdity? I can understand spiting a kid who takes up skateboarding just because his friends do. Sure, he can give the activity a bad name with his lack of understanding of the history and/or totally bodacious slang. He may even make a complete fool out of himself by busting his melon trying to drop in on the half pipe at your local skate park... but can you really keep hating him if he persists and turns out to be a solid skateboarder? That's The Sword in my eyes. It seems to me like they may have taken up playing a watered down High on Fire style for either of the two reasons listed above: either they liked it to begin with, or because of a third party. Either way, the end result isn't undesirable. It's derivative and lacking in substance at times, true, but the riffs are solid enough and played competently.

I'll be the first to admit, while I do enjoy the occasional listen to Age of Winters, there are two very glaring flaws that make the album either unintentionally laughable or difficult to listen to. The first point is the lyrics, holy hell and a half do these lyrics blow a fat one. Here is a tutorial on how to write lyrics for a Sword album: go to your local library and check out a book about mythology. Greek, Norse, Finnish, whatever, everything gets a mention. Now go to a zoo and throw it at the chimpanzees. After a few days, retrieve the book from the cage, pick out every sentence with feces smeared on it, and then throw them together haphazardly. They don't have to fit into a pleasing cadence, they don't have to follow a rhyme scheme, just as long as you cram as many awesome sounding names in there as you can. Congratulations! You have successfully written Lament for the Aurochs! +666EXP! Level up! The second point of contention is the drummer. Either this man has the ride mixed far too high, or he seriously uses the crash to keep the beat. Either way there is a constant *TEEESH TEEESH TEEESH* noise carrying on throughout the entirety of almost every single track at nearly the same beat with very little variation. It can be grating and makes the album almost impossible to finish if you notice it, and believe me, once you notice it, it doesn't go away.

As for everything else, it's nothing special, but yet it's nothing to earn your ire. A majority of the riffs may give you a little niggling feeling of deja vu, but they flow together so well you seem to forget that Sleep wrote these riffs many a moon ago. Even so, songs like Iron Swan and The Horned Goddess give my head little choice except to bang excessively. Many of the riffsets are nothing short of punishing and 100% heavy fucking metal, as unoriginal as they may be. I'll admit that the last three songs manage to fall flat on the whole, with Ebethron having a really unnecessary drum ditty in the middle, March of the Lor having easily the lamest riffs on the whole album and some of the worst I've heard period (bizarrely, they are sprinkled between some of the most intense moments on the record), and Lament for the Aurochs plodding on for far too long. Freya has gained national exposure due to the Guitar Hero series, but I still find it to be enjoyable with a scrumptiously satisfying main riff, despite the overexposure and being the band's Stairway to Heaven (I say that solely in the sense that is the only song that casual fans can name off the top of their heads). It's hard to verbalize what makes the music good, but believe me it's a love it or hate it type of thing. Imagine Blessed Black Wings simplified and with a below par drunken crooner behind the mic, but imagine it sounding good.

I've dwelled on the negative for a majority of this review, and I'm actually coming up short on why the album and band don't deserve the shit that they usually get. It's derivative, has a lazy vocalist, an annoying drum production, and god awfully bad lyrics, but dammit it's good. Age of Winters is greater than the sum of it's parts, and yet I can't quite explain why. It's comparable to (brace yourself readers, here comes another food comparison) grilled cheese. It's fatty, greasy, bare bones, minimalistic, and pretty much the bottom of the barrel when it comes to cuisine... but holy DAMN does it taste good! Really, this is a controversial record and an objective analysis is somewhat difficult to come by. The dribbling fools hailing this to be top notch doom metal need to pull their heads out of their ass for fear of choking on their heads, and the staunch haters need to loosen up their tin foil helmets, it's probably restricting bloodflow. Just because a fairly unoriginal and catchy band garners mainstream attention doesn't indicate the destruction of the underground. Motorhead will still put out great records, Altars of Madness will sound just as good as it did almost twenty years ago, and Origin will still play a mindblowingly fast brand of technical death metal. And even if any of this changes, none of it can be blamed on The Sword's rise to fame. Listen and judge for yourself, but try not to make up your mind before hearing it.